American Express Travel Suggests Aruba Vacations Hard to Beat

From a traveler’s point of view, Aruba can be divided into two coasts. The southeast coast has the white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and warm waters. The northwest coast is exposed to the Atlantic, and therefore has rougher seas with treacherous currents and a rockier coastline. These two extremes contribute to Aruba’s growing reputation for being a “Desert Paradise”.

Weather in Aruba

Unlike a desert, Aruba’s weather is mostly the same, having no extremes, while maintaining relatively consistent temperatures. But because of its more southern location in the Caribbean, the heat of the sun can be stronger than other Caribbean islands. A constant light breeze tempers the hot sun to create a cooling effect. The lack of rain is what really marks Aruba as a desert paradise. Most other Caribbean islands have a wet season and are prone to storms and hurricanes. Yet according to the information gathered by American Express Travel, the weather is almost always dry in Aruba, with most rain showers coming at night and lasting only a little while. Aruba is also on the outer hurricane zone, meaning it is rarely hit or affected by other storms.

With this lack of rain comes a lack of the lush vegetation that the other Caribbean islands are known for. The combination of comparatively sparse vegetation, and the seemingly endless beach, Aruba is definitely a desert island. But all things considered, Aruba is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Most tourists see Aruba as remotely luxurious. And while this island of endless sand seems a bit like a desert, the waters bloom with tropical fish, perfect for diving, snorkeling, and fishing.

How Much Does it Cost and How to Save Money

Some travelers consider Aruba a relatively expensive place to go. However, while Aruba flights tend to be more expensive, hotels are often better deals. Unlike the Florida Keys or the Bahamas, Aruba is a long flight from almost all major airports. Aruba’s pricing is best described as moderate, offering both upscale and moderate accommodations and packages. There are some upscale hotels in Aruba who offer American Express Travel Deals, bringing the high end pricing down to something more reasonable. If you plan to do a lot of activities or dine out a lot, it’s a good idea to purchase a Visit Aruba discount card. With this card you can get deals in a lot of places, sometimes a 5-10% discount. You can also take a look at Free Discount Coupons to save some money. American dollars are accepted virtually everywhere at a decent exchange rate. The exchange rate given in shops is about 1.75 florins to the dollar.

Like most island destinations, American Express Travel representatives say that groceries and other supplies are all imported from elsewhere, so prices tend to be high. Ling & Sons Grocery is the closest to the resort area which has good prices, high quality and is one of the least known to tourists.

Virginia Morgan writes tourism and travel articles for AMT American Express Travel, The Internet’s premier resource for American Express Vacations. Serving customers online since 1996.

Why Florida is a Premier American Express Travel Destination

Often called the Sunshine State, Florida’s state identity could be more accurately called the Tourist State. Centered in tourism with big attractions like the Everglades National Park, chic South Beach, and family friendly Disney World, Florida has a created a name for itself within the travel sector. Florida offers so much more than meets the eye and offers one of the amazingly vast arrays of vacation choices in the entire world. American Express Vacations is one of the few travel operators who offers packages, which hit most of the state’s attractions.

Everglades National Park is one of Florida’s not to be missed attractions. Protecting more than 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is the 3rd largest national park in the lower 48 states. The area is home to rare and endangered species, such as the American crocodile, Florida panther, and West Indian manatee. Over 1,000 species of plants live here. During the dry season, November to May, most facilities are open and a full range of tours and programs are available to enjoy. Make sure to tour the Royal Palm Trail. This walk is great for spotting wildlife, especially in the dry season. Shark Valley Tram Tours are also entertaining. This guided two-hour narrated tram tour provides a great opportunity to see wildlife. American Express Tours suggests that travelers use this tour during wet season in order to escape the heat and bugs.

South Beach has gone through numerous man-made and natural changes over the years, including a booming regional economy and a growing tourism sector. In the late 1980s, a renaissance began in South Beach, with an influx of fashion industry professionals moving into the area. Most major modeling agencies had offices in South Beach, and fashion photographers frequently used the area as a backdrop for their photo shoots.Housing some of the biggest names in fame and fortune, South Beach has become a major entertainment destination with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants and oceanfront hotels. The area is popular with both American and international tourists.

Disney World is a must-see for any traveler, and contains so many attractions it can take at least a whole week to visit them all. Disney World has 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, several beautifully themed resort hotels, and golf courses. Each Park offers a unique adventure. In the Magic Kingdom, experience traditional Disney. In Disney’s Animal Kingdom, get up-close with some of the most exotic animals from all seven continents. At Disney’s MGM studios, experience the magic of the movies. Explore the technological world of today and tomorrow at Epcot. Each theme park, as well as many of the resorts, has so many dining options that every traveler can find something appetizing. When combined with the Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks, its pristine golf courses, and other surrounding attractions, the Disney property provides plenty of fun for all ages.

Keep in mind Florida has a high occurrence of hurricanes. You might want to check the Hurricane safety page if you are visiting Florida. Beware of lightning in the north central part of the state, especially Dixie County, the state’s lightning capital. Volusia County is known for a high number of shark attacks, so be careful when surfing. Also, there is a high occurrence of tornadoes in Florida. When traveling to Florida, consider using American Express Travel because they offer some of the best natural disaster traveler insurance.

Virginia Morgan writes tourism and travel related articles for AMT American Express Travel, a premier Internet resource for American Express Vacations. Serving customers online since 1996.

Hawaii an Exceptional Destination According to American Express Travel and Ask Doc Travel

Hawaii is rated one of the most popular vacation destination for American travelers by Ask Doc Travel. The destination is also quite popular with American Express Vacations. But why? What makes this destination so wonderful? For those of us who have traveled to Hawaii, there are so many reasons to visit that we become muddled, answering only “What do you mean what’s so great about Hawaii?” Well, here are some things to keep in mind when you speak of the many wonders which make Hawaii such a popular destination.

Hawaii is comprised of eight islands. These islands are natural wonders that were created in the middle of the ocean by underwater volcanoes. As the magma from these volcanoes cooled, they hardened into rocks. These rock formations became the Hawaiian Islands. The volcanic phenomenon created Hawaii’s famous black sand beaches and the rich soil from which springs the islands lush vegetation. These main islands are Niihau, Kauai , Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and Hawaii. The island Hawaii is the largest, and is sometimes called the “Big Island” or “Big Isle”. This phenomenon created Hawaii’s famous black sand beaches and the rich soil from which springs the islands lush vegetation.

The climate of Hawaii is one more reason why these islands remain a popular vacation destination. The weather is more moderate than typical tropical areas because of the cooling effect of the surrounding ocean. In layman’s terms, this means that temperatures and humidity tend to be less extreme than places such as the Caribbean or Mexico. In the tourist high season, summer, the high temperatures reaching the upper 80s °F, rarely going into the 90s°F . During the tourist low season of winter, temperatures at the lowest elevation average in the mid-60s. One more reason that Hawaii is to be preferred is because hurricanes are a rare occurrence compared to Mexico and the Caribbean.

Compared to other tropical paradises, Hawaii is monitored by American safety and health regulations. Yes, its OK to drink the tap water! Also, you still have all the rights and protections of a United States citizen. Should anything go wrong, or if you or someone you are traveling with should suddenly need medical attention, you have access to regulated and state of the art care.

When people think of Hawaii, they think of the aquamarine water and clean sandy beaches. But why else should one experience Hawaii? Besides the amazingly pristine beach activities, Hawaii offers deluxe shopping that is reminiscent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, including couture boutiques such as Coach, Gucci, Tiffany’s and more. The islands are also rich in culture and history. One way to experience the beauty of Hawaiian culture is to attend an old fashioned luau. One of the best traditional luaus is Famous Germaine’s Luau in Kapolei Oahu. Take in some American History by visiting the infamous Pearl Harbor. With so much to see and do, you’ll never get bored.

There is one snag in this otherwise amazing destination: cost. Because Hawaii is an isolated island chain, everything is more expensive. And because Hawaii is the 50th American state, there is no lower currency exchange like in the Caribbean. Thankfully, there are a number of hotel and travel providers who offer different packages and accommodations. Although hotels and air flights can be on sale and are widely available, consumer products like food, souvenirs and sundries are expensive. Food for one person could cost between $50 to $100! Budgeting correctly is vital. One way to avoid expenses is by making sure you pack all the sundries you can think of, such as sunblock, lip balm, sunglasses and such.

However, when all is said and done, Hawaii can be a real home away from home and you’d be surprised how many American Express Travel Deals you can find to Hawaii. Hawaii is a top destination for a number of good reasons. There is no better place to go for a tropical vacation.

Virginia Morgan writes tourism and travel articles for AMT American Express Travel, The Internet’s premier resource for American Express Vacations. Serving luxury travelers online since 1996.

American Express Travel Says Mexico is a Don’t Miss Destination

When Southern Californians have a small budget and a desire to see the exotic sights and sounds of another country, American Express Travel agents suggest one of numerous destinations in beautiful Mexico. Mexico is a great vacation spot for several reasons. Mexico is in America’s backyard, making it reasonably safer for US citizens than other areas of the globe. This also means that depending on where you’re departing from; the actual travel time is more appealing and manageable than some other international destinations. Besides being easily accessible, Mexico has a wide variety of sights to entertain American travelers. From the beautiful beaches, to historical cities, to the archaeological sites of cultures such as the Maya, Olmeca and Azteca, plus incredible deserts, mountains, forests and the most modern of cities, Mexico, has something to offer everyone.

Relaxation, Entertainment and Ancient Ruins

For the traveler who enjoys urban sights and spirited nightlife, consider visiting some of the popular Mexican cities, such as the capital city of Mexico City, Tijuana or Guadalajara. But if you really want to visit the active Mexican party scene, book a trip Cancun, Cozumel, or the Riviera Maya. These destinations have some of the most spectacular and unspoiled beaches and some have all-inclusive resorts. One price covers food, entertainment and drinks allowing you to put one price on your entire vacation.

One of the best places to travel is the Yucatan. Yucatan offers an ideal mix of Maya culture. Great weather and some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving. Yucatan offers all the diverse sights of Mexico in one place. And American Express vacations offers exclusive packages to Yucatan created especially with the American traveler in mind. But if your real passion is ancient cultures, then San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas is for you. This popular Mexican tourist resort offers a view of the indigenous Mayan peoples in a beautiful ancient city.

All-Inclusive Resorts and Where to Find Them

Mexico all-inclusive resorts can be less expensive than similar Caribbean resorts. Alcoholic beverages can be inexpensive in Mexico, at least compared to some destinations. From the inexpensive 3-star hotels to luxurious all-inclusive resorts, Mexico is the perfect choice for all budgets.

Some of the better travel packages to Mexico offer prices for the budget traveler as well as the higher end traveler. If you are willing to take the time and research your vacation you may be surprised at the great value you can find your vacations dollars. For one of the best overall values for a Mexican vacation, you should consider exploring some American Express Travel deals. These packages are an excellent choice because you receive more luxury for your money not to mention nearly 60 local American Express Travel offices to help you if you need assistance.

Virginia Morgan writes tourism and travel articles for AMT AMT American Express Travel, a premier Internet destination for American Express Travel Deals.

American Express Travel Says Mammoth, California is Great Fun in Both Summer and Winter

American Express Vacations affirms one of the most popular vacation spots for adventure travelers is Mammoth, California. This year round resort offers travelers a wide variety of activities and entertainment. Mammoth is also surprisingly luxurious-offering several spas, fine dinning choices and upscale lodging. Mammoth is a great choice for vacationers who wish to experience the rugged beauty of the Californian Sierras and relax in elegant resorts.

Winter in Mammoth

Wintertime is one of the most popular seasons for travelers according to American Express Travel. In fact, Mammoth made its name as a winter resort. The name Mammoth actually refers to the large ski slope, which was so large, it was referred to as “Mammoth Slope.” Thus, the area retained that name. The near by town is called Mammoth Lakes. The town is little more than a village, with a permanent population at about 500. However, the winter population is often ten times that. Mammoth Lakes actually has more condos than stores or restaurants. These condos can be rented on a weekly basis and range in price. The average price for a weekly condo in the winter is about $2000. Mammoth also offers several luxury resorts, including the Mammoth Inn, which is literally across the street from the most popular ski slope. For more conservative travelers, there are a number of budget inns and motels.

Summer in Mammoth

Despite the booming winter business of skiing, Mammoth is also quite popular in the summer time. There are a number of American Express Travel Deals in the early part of the summer before the crowds come in. Early June is best for weather and availability. Again, there are a number of options for accommodations in the summer, with more availability in the condos. Prices are also marginally less.

The travel attractions during the summer season are different than the winter season. Although there is no snow for the skiing masses, adventure travel enthusiast still flock to this location. From the Mammoth Inn, travelers can purchase bus tickets to be taken to Devil’s Post Pile National Monument for $7.00 per person. This provides access to a number of scenic areas, including the geological wonder, Devil’s Post Pile, the gorgeous Rainbow Falls and the peaceful Reds Meadow. The bus stops at ten different locations, and the traveler must hike from where the bus parks to see the sights. The hike to Devil’s Post Pile is pretty mild, and most people say it’s not that difficult. The hike to the top of the monument is quite strenuous, and is not recommended for the elderly or children with asthma, however. The hike to Rainbow Falls is also quite strenuous, as is the continuation to the Lower Falls. Make sure to bring at least two 12 ounce bottles if you plan to do more than Devil’s Post Pile. Reds Meadow is quite breathtaking, but is a longer and strenuous hike, but the view is worth it.

With so much to see and do, it is no surprise that the active traveler is attracted to Mammoth Mountain. American Express Travel offers a number of packages that include some guided hikes and tours, combined with some of the best accommodations in Mammoth Lakes. Find out why active travelers love Mammoth!

Virginia Morgan wrote this article for AMT American Express Travel. She’s been a travel writer for over five years and enjoys the outdoors. AMT American Express Travel is a popular Internet source for American Express Vacations.

What Travel Agents Need to Know About Corporate Travel Today

This is rightly named as the age of traveler-centricity and with the evolution of the new era of personalized travel; it is leading to research and development of a host of new so-called intelligent services. The command-and-control perspectives of traveling have changed a lot from the past and the focus has shifted more on the traveler and the productivity of each trip. It has become essential to maintain that the travelers have the greatest return on investment on each trip. New generations of young employees and managers, who have been growing up and dwelling in a digital age, are moving up the ranks as travelers. It has become essential to recognize the need for greater flexibility acknowledging that the employees who travel on corporate trips also consider a percentage of their trip to be a leisure outlet. With increasing globalization and rise in companies sending their staff overseas to network and connect with their offshore prospects/customers/suppliers, corporate travel is a highly profitable tourism segment. Before we talk about how tourism companies can better cater to business travelers, let us first look at why they prefer to use specialized corporate agencies over traditional agents

Why do businesses use Corporate Travel Agencies?

This might be the most basic question for a travel agency as to why they need to use agencies specializing in corporate travel when there are plenty of regular travel agents in the market. Here is the importance of corporate travel agencies who have online systems which allow business travelers access to their complete itinerary.

The following information is at the fingertips of the CTAs:-

full business itinerary details
up-to-date tracking details of flights (including delays or rescheduling)
transparent details about additional costs such as baggage fees or in-flight fees
travel alerts, if any, in the destined area
complete and up-to-date details about the visa procurement policies and identification required
currency requirement and conversion rates

What do corporate clients expect from Corporate Travel Agencies?

Negotiated Fares

The Corporate Agencies tend to have tie-ups with hotels, car rentals, flights etc. giving them access to lower fares which can be used only by the frequent business travelers. Discounted prices are not the only advantage though as they also offer flight upgrades, room upgrades, and VIP check-in lines as required.

In-depth information about the travel industry

Corporate travel agents have access to many travel resources and most importantly, quickly, than any other leisure travel agent. Additional information helps to make the business trips convenient and comfortable.

Changes in Itinerary

When an airline ticket needs to get rescheduled or cancelled, chances are the airline or the online service provider will charge lofty fees. When booking with a corporate travel agent, most of the times schedule changes can be done at zero or minimal extra charges.

Viable emergency contacts

It is important for the business travelers to reach the correct person at the need of trouble. Corporate travel agents have the experience and professionalism to relieve stress for both the traveler and the company.

What you need to consider as corporate travel increases?

Business Travel Barometer reported that corporate travel is witnessing an accelerated growth. However, when poorly managed, it may be no longer an advantage to companies and may, in fact become a burden. There are some factors which the corporations and CTAs must consider to get the best out of the time spent traveling.

Adopting a travel policy

The corporate must define a travel policy which is applicable to and respected by travelers at all levels. This policy should be used to establish the standards which will help to track the improvement of business travel. It will eventually help to reduce the costs of the entire package.

Do not limit the traveler’s autonomy

The management is responsible for budgeting the travel policy which helps to improve cost management however, it is also essential to give a degree of autonomy to the traveler. The policy should be flexible enough to allow the employee to adapt the trip as per the situation.

Traveler’s security should be a major concern

Business travelers need to have security in place. The company needs to stick to its definition of standards to ensure the employee’s integrity. The CTAs should have reliable partners (travel insurance, airlines, hotel chains etc.).

Mobility and automation

To optimize time and ease the processes, the administration of management platforms should have automated processes. This means they should adopt mobile solutions where search options, travel alerts, ticket reservations etc. can be accessed quickly, easily and on the go.

Corporate Travel Trends in 2016

Corporate travel trends tend to change regularly. 2016 has also not been any different and the travel management companies (TMCs) and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) are quite focused to provide steady if not strong axis all over. A growing MICE sector, investments in mobile and big data and enhanced focus on duty of care are some of their areas of focus.

Rising prices

The consolidated buzzword among global suppliers, airfares, hotel rates etc. is the rising fares. It is sometimes the move of the suppliers to generate discounts which encourage travel if there is a strong decline in demand. A positive 2016 world economy has been bringing an increase in air fares of a few percentage points, hotels are expected to see 4%-6% rise in average global rates and the competition will remain moderate in the car rental services.

Duty of care

Risk management is one of the major points of emphasis for corporations. Corporate customers are allowing new policies and improved technologies to monitor employees’ location in case of an emergency, especially when they are travelling to foreign destinations. For instance, Concur Risk Messaging helps to identify the travelers moving around in the world and alerts them with alternate travel arrangement as and when needed.

Focusing on MICE

Meetings industry is a major growing sector and the corporate travel trend is developing on it. The corporate travel agencies should better start aligning the various meeting procurement methodologies with its transient travel sourcing. One of the ways could be to broaden the variety of meeting services by incorporating incentive trips within it.

Investing in technology

A sharper focus on increasing value and becoming more traveler-centric can be done by bringing in mobile friendly technologies. Mobile and big data are definitely the two most significant technological investments which any corporate travel agency must focus to make their platform more appealing.

Business travel analysis after Brexit

Following Brexit, ACTE and CAPA shared their speculations. According to them, the greatest short-term effects on the travel industry will come from the weakening of the pound against other world currencies. Greeley Koch, executive director for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives said that the business travel industry will trend on currency fluctuations; with some companies taking advantage of the weaker pound and traveling more, while others may withhold business travel until world markets find their own level.

Impact of terrorism on corporate travelers

Travel policy makers and administrators need to be guided by rising terrorism scare. For executives and staff undertaking travel on behalf of businesses, the travel agents and corporate travel agencies (CTAs) should prove the reassurance for their safety through the travel policies. It is more than likely that the surveys conducted over corporate travelers reflect the general concern of the global business travelers about the spate of terrorism. However, there is no denying the fact that terrorist threat is changing the patterns of business travel. The key impact of this is to keep in mind that the companies providing travel services for business travelers need to enhance their focus on security and the associated risks in delivering the services to corporate clients. According to a recent finding, travel managers have higher estimation of their policy’s effectiveness in addressing risk compared to skeptical business travelers.

Concluding

Although the corporate travel sector has continued to progress, there are a plethora of challenges faced by the industry. A rapidly changing consumer market, the emergence of new business models, the impact of technology, man-made and natural crises are some of the fulcrum points that need to be considered before planning corporate trips.

Base Tendriling Travel Expenses

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing costs, are under new scrutiny. Corporations are realizing that even a savings of 1 percent or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line.

Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this type of project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management in order to control and monitor it more effectively.

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services used, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies.

Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky-only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming, most companies don’t know where to start. “The industry of travel is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until such time as a passenger actually sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information.”

If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive, but highly sought-after, savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express. “In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and reengineering efforts designed to substantially improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs.”

As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get very creative about the methods they employ.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate reservation information to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage and patterns of travel between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating discounts with travel suppliers.

“When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of more than $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still a significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.

No More Tickets

Paperless travel is catching on faster than the paperless office ever did as both service providers and consumers work together to reduce ticket prices for business travelers. Perhaps the most cutting-edge of the advances is “ticketless” travel, which almost all major airlines are testing.

In the meantime, travel providers and agencies are experimenting with new technologies to enable travelers to book travel services via the Internet, e-mail and unattended ticketing kiosks. Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and several other major hotel chains market on the Internet. These services reduce the need for paper and offer better service and such peripheral benefits as increased efficiency, improved tracking of travel expenses and trends, and cost reduction.

Dennis Egolf, CFO of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., realized that the medical center’s decentralized location, a quarter-mile from the hospital, made efficiency difficult. “We were losing production time and things got lost,” he says. “Every memo had to be hand-carried for approval, and we required seven different copies of each travel order.” As a result, Egolf tried an off-the-shelf, paper-reduction software package designed for the federal government.

The software allows the hospital to manage travel on-line, from tracking per-diem allowances and calculating expenses to generating cash advance forms and authorizing reimbursement vouchers. The software also lets the hospital keep a running account of its travel expenses and its remaining travel budget.

“Today, for all practical purposes, the system is paperless,” says Egolf. The software has helped the hospital reduce document processing time by 93 percent. “The original goal focused on managing employee travel without paper,” he says. “We have achieved that goal, in part due to the efforts of the staff and in part due to the accuracy of the software.”

With only a $6,000 investment, the hospital saved $70 each employee trip and saved almost half of its $200,000 T&E budget through the paper-reduction program.

Out There

Consolidation of corporate travel arrangements by fewer agencies has been a growing trend since 1982. Nearly three out of four companies now make travel plans for their business locations through a single agency as opposed to 51 percent in 1988. Two major benefits of agency consolidation are the facilitation of accounting and T&E budgeting, as well as leverage in negotiating future travel discounts.

A major technological advance that allows this consolidation trend to flourish is the introduction of satellite ticket printers (STPs). Using STPs enables a travel agency to consolidate all operations to one home office, and still send all necessary tickets to various locations instantly via various wire services. As the term implies, the machinery prints out airline tickets on-site immediately, eliminating delivery charges.

For London Fog, STPs are a blessing. London Fog’s annual T&E budget of more than $15 million is split equally between its two locations in Eldersburg, Md., and New York City. Each location purchases the same number of tickets, so equal access to ticketing from their agency is a must. With an STP in their two locations, the company services both offices with one agency in Baltimore. Each office has access to immediate tickets and still manages to save by not having to pay courier and express mail charges that can range up to $15 for each of the more than 500 tickets each purchases annually.

Conde Nast Publications’ annual T&E budget of more than $20 million is allocated among its locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Detroit. Since 1994, travel arrangements have been handled by a centralized agency, Advanced Travel Management in New York City, by installing an STP in each of these five locations. In addition to increased efficiency due to consolidation, Conde Nast now has the ability to change travel plans at a moment’s notice and have new tickets in hand instantly.

The real benefit is that the machines are owned and maintained by the travel agency., so there is no cost to the company. Due to the major expense involved, however, STPs remain an option only for major ticket purchasers. “STPs are a viable option in this process for any location that purchases more than $500,000 per year in tickets,” says Shoen.

As airfare averages 43 percent of any company’s T&E expenses, savings obtainable through the various uses of technology have become dramatic. For example, the ability of corporations to collect and analyze their own travel trends has led to the creation of net-fare purchasing-negotiating a price between a corporation and an airline to purchase tickets that does not include the added expenses of commissions, overrides, transaction fees, agency transaction fees and other discounts.

Although most major U.S. carriers publicly proclaim that they don’t negotiate corporate discounts below published market fares, the American Express survey on business travel management found that 38 percent of U.S. companies had access to, or already had implemented, negotiated airline discounts. The availability and mechanics of these arrangements vary widely by carrier.

What’s the Price?

Fred Swaffer, transportation manager for Hewlett-Packard and a strong advocate of the net-pricing system, has pioneered the concept of fee-based pricing with travel-management companies under contract with H-P. He states that H-P, which spends more than $528 million per year on T&E, plans to have all air travel based on net-fare pricing. “At the present time, we have several net fares at various stages of agreement,” he says. “These fares are negotiated with the airlines at the corporate level, then trickle down to each of our seven geographical regions.”

Frank Kent, Western regional manager for United Airlines, concurs: “United Airlines participates in corporate volume discounting, such as bulk ticket purchases, but not with net pricing. I have yet to see one net-fare agreement that makes sense to us. We’re not opposed to it, but we just don’t understand it right now.”

Kent stresses, “Airlines should approach corporations with long-term strategic relationships rather than just discounts. We would like to see ourselves committed to a corporation rather than just involved.”

As business travel expenses nose upward, companies are realizing that better cost-management techniques can make a difference.

US. corporate travel expenses rocketed to more than $143 billion in 1994, according to American Express’ most recent survey on business travel management. Private-sector employers spend an estimated $2,484 per employee on travel and entertainment, a 17 percent increase over the past four years.

Corporate T&E costs, now the third-largest controllable expense behind sales and data-processing costs, are under new scrutiny. Corporations are realizing that even a savings of 1 percent or 2 percent can translate into millions of dollars added to their bottom line.

Savings of that order are sure to get management’s attention, which is a requirement for this type of project. Involvement begins with understanding and evaluating the components of T&E management in order to control and monitor it more effectively.

Hands-on management includes assigning responsibility for travel management, implementing a quality-measurement system for travel services used, and writing and distributing a formal travel policy. Only 64 percent of U.S. corporations have travel policies.

Even with senior management’s support, the road to savings is rocky-only one in three companies has successfully instituted an internal program that will help cut travel expenses, and the myriad aspects of travel are so overwhelming, most companies don’t know where to start. “The industry of travel is based on information,” says Steven R. Schoen, founder and CEO of The Global Group Inc. “Until such time as a passenger actually sets foot on the plane, they’ve [only] been purchasing information.”

If that’s the case, information technology seems a viable place to hammer out those elusive, but highly sought-after, savings. “Technological innovations in the business travel industry are allowing firms to realize the potential of automation to control and reduce indirect [travel] costs,” says Roger H. Ballou, president of the Travel Services Group USA of American Express. “In addition, many companies are embarking on quality programs that include sophisticated process improvement and reengineering efforts designed to substantially improve T&E management processes and reduce indirect costs.”

As companies look to technology to make potential savings a reality, they can get very creative about the methods they employ.

The Great Leveler

Centralized reservation systems were long the exclusive domain of travel agents and other industry professionals. But all that changed in November 1992 when a Department of Transportation ruling allowed the general public access to systems such as Apollo and SABRE. Travel-management software, such as TripPower and TravelNet, immediately sprang up, providing corporations insight into where their T&E dollars are being spent.

The software tracks spending trends by interfacing with the corporation’s database and providing access to centralized reservation systems that provide immediate reservation information to airlines, hotels and car rental agencies. These programs also allow users to generate computerized travel reports on cost savings with details on where discounts were obtained, hotel and car usage and patterns of travel between cities. Actual data gives corporations added leverage when negotiating discounts with travel suppliers.

“When you own the information, you don’t have to go back to square one every time you decide to change agencies,” says Mary Savovie Stephens, travel manager for biotech giant Chiron Corp.

Sybase Inc., a client/server software leader with an annual T&E budget of more than $15 million, agrees. “Software gives us unprecedented visibility into how employees are spending their travel dollars and better leverage to negotiate with travel service suppliers,” says Robert Lerner, director of credit and corporate travel services for Sybase Inc. “We have better access to data, faster, in a real-time environment, which is expected to bring us big savings in T&E. Now we have control over our travel information and no longer have to depend exclusively on the agencies and airlines.”

The cost for this privilege depends on the volume of business. One-time purchases of travel-management software can run from under $100 to more than $125,000. Some software providers will accommodate smaller users by selling software piecemeal for $5 to $12 per booked trip, still a significant savings from the $50 industry norm per transaction.

No More Tickets

Paperless travel is catching on faster than the paperless office ever did as both service providers and consumers work together to reduce ticket prices for business travelers. Perhaps the most cutting-edge of the advances is “ticketless” travel, which almost all major airlines are testing.

In the meantime, travel providers and agencies are experimenting with new technologies to enable travelers to book travel services via the Internet, e-mail and unattended ticketing kiosks. Best Western International, Hyatt Hotels and several other major hotel chains market on the Internet. These services reduce the need for paper and offer better service and such peripheral benefits as increased efficiency, improved tracking of travel expenses and trends, and cost reduction.

Dennis Egolf, CFO of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Louisville, Ky., realized that the medical center’s decentralized location, a quarter-mile from the hospital, made efficiency difficult. “We were losing production time and things got lost,” he says. “Every memo had to be hand-carried for approval, and we required seven different copies of each travel order.” As a result, Egolf tried an off-the-shelf, paper-reduction software package designed for the federal government.

The software allows the hospital to manage travel on-line, from tracking per-diem allowances and calculating expenses to generating cash advance forms and authorizing reimbursement vouchers. The software also lets the hospital keep a running account of its travel expenses and its remaining travel budget.

“Today, for all practical purposes, the system is paperless,” says Egolf. The software has helped the hospital reduce document processing time by 93 percent. “The original goal focused on managing employee travel without paper,” he says. “We have achieved that goal, in part due to the efforts of the staff and in part due to the accuracy of the software.”

With only a $6,000 investment, the hospital saved $70 each employee trip and saved almost half of its $200,000 T&E budget through the paper-reduction program.

Out There

Consolidation of corporate travel arrangements by fewer agencies has been a growing trend since 1982. Nearly three out of four companies now make travel plans for their business locations through a single agency as opposed to 51 percent in 1988. Two major benefits of agency consolidation are the facilitation of accounting and T&E budgeting, as well as leverage in negotiating future travel discounts.

A major technological advance that allows this consolidation trend to flourish is the introduction of satellite ticket printers (STPs). Using STPs enables a travel agency to consolidate all operations to one home office, and still send all necessary tickets to various locations instantly via various wire services. As the term implies, the machinery prints out airline tickets on-site immediately, eliminating delivery charges.

For London Fog, STPs are a blessing. London Fog’s annual T&E budget of more than $15 million is split equally between its two locations in Eldersburg, Md., and New York City. Each location purchases the same number of tickets, so equal access to ticketing from their agency is a must. With an STP in their two locations, the company services both offices with one agency in Baltimore. Each office has access to immediate tickets and still manages to save by not having to pay courier and express mail charges that can range up to $15 for each of the more than 500 tickets each purchases annually.

Conde Nast Publications’ annual T&E budget of more than $20 million is allocated among its locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Detroit. Since 1994, travel arrangements have been handled by a centralized agency, Advanced Travel Management in New York City, by installing an STP in each of these five locations. In addition to increased efficiency due to consolidation, Conde Nast now has the ability to change travel plans at a moment’s notice and have new tickets in hand instantly.

The real benefit is that the machines are owned and maintained by the travel agency., so there is no cost to the company. Due to the major expense involved, however, STPs remain an option only for major ticket purchasers. “STPs are a viable option in this process for any location that purchases more than $500,000 per year in tickets,” says Shoen.

As airfare averages 43 percent of any company’s T&E expenses, savings obtainable through the various uses of technology have become dramatic. For example, the ability of corporations to collect and analyze their own travel trends has led to the creation of net-fare purchasing-negotiating a price between a corporation and an airline to purchase tickets that does not include the added expenses of commissions, overrides, transaction fees, agency transaction fees and other discounts.

Although most major U.S. carriers publicly proclaim that they don’t negotiate corporate discounts below published market fares, the American Express survey on business travel management found that 38 percent of U.S. companies had access to, or already had implemented, negotiated airline discounts. The availability and mechanics of these arrangements vary widely by carrier.